Saturday, October 27

ROSSI CONTINUES TO FLOUNDER




By MICHAEL ESDAILE

VALENTINO Rossi continues to flounder on the MotoGP Ducati, despite having pressured the Italian manufacturer into making radical changes to the bike in a vain attempt to replicate the form Australian Casey Stoner showed on the Italian V4.

When Rossi first rode the MotoGP Ducati, it was immediately after Stoner beat him home by 4.4 seconds in the final MotoGP race of the 2010 season.  Stoner was chasing eventual race winner Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and Rossi was also on a Yamaha.

The next day, Rossi rode the Ducati in a test session at Valencia, and ended the day 15th fastest.  The Italian claimed the bike Stoner had ridden to nine podium finishes including three race wins that year was “unrideable”.

At that point Ducati was using the carbon-fibre airbox as a load-bearing chassis member and Rossi immediately began pointing to that as the reason he could not get anywhere Stoner’s lap times on the Ducati.

Since then, at Rossi’s insistence, Ducati has abandoned the carbon-fibre ‘airbox’ chassis.  First it built a hybrid using aluminium spar sections then it built a completely new chassis.  Over the course of the past two seasons, Ducati has made more changes to its MotoGP bike than in the four years that Stoner rode the bike.

But it has been to no avail. 

And now, here we are at Phillip Island, a track that is a great yard-stick for Ducati since Stoner has won here every time he raced the Ducati, and Rossi is still floundering around well off the front-running pace.

From Free Practice 1 to FP3, Rossi has been at least two seconds a lap slower than Stoner on the Honda.  But even worse, Rossi’s very best lap so far, 1m 32.030s on the 1000cc Ducati, is still not even as good as the 1m 30.871s mark Stoner laid down five years ago in his first Philip Island race on the 2007 800cc Ducati V4.

Not only that, Rossi has yet to match the lap times Spaniard Carlos Checa has recorded on a steel-framed 1200cc V-twin Superbike.  Superbikes, it should be remembered, are based on a production road bike you can by from your local dealer.  MotoGP bikes are special purpose built racing machines that are lighter than a Superbike.

But on a Superbike, Checa has clocked a best of 1m 31.950s at Phillip Island – a mark Rossi has yet to match on the MotoGP Ducati.

Rather sad for a rider large sections of the English press have labeled the ‘Greatest of All Time.’

Perhaps, with qualifying tyres this afternoon, Rossi will finally be able to better Checa’s mark, and maybe get close to Stoner’s five year old times…